Latest Review – 42nd Street [Opera House, Manchester]


Opera House, Manchester

Until Saturday 21 October 2023

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

There’s something very special about watching a really good company sing and dance in perfect unison, and in Jonathan Church, Bill Deamer and Robert Jones’ flawless production, that is exactly what we get.

42nd Street is one of the original backstage, showbiz musical extravaganzas. The show is based on Lloyd Bacon’s Academy Award-nominated 1933 pre-code classic – itself adapted from the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes – which featured the iconic, geometric choreography of Busby Berkeley, though it wasn’t until 1980 that the musical was eventually brought to the Broadway stage.

It seems such an obvious choice for a stage adaptation. All the elements are there: the fairly tale story; the backstage intrigue; showbiz gossip; romance; sparkling comedy; breathtaking dance routines; so it’s a wonder why it took quite so long to make the jump from screen to stage.

With a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, 42nd Street can also claim to be one of the earliest examples of a true stage jukebox musical, featuring songs written by Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics) for the original film, as well as many of their other great American songbook classics taken from a host of the other great movie musicals of the 1930s.

Set during the height of the Great Depression, 42nd Street is a true celebration of the uplifting power of musical theatre and the timeless, irresistible spirit of Broadway.

The rags-to-riches tale centres on Peggy Sawyer, a young, wide-eyed hopeful, fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who dreams of one day being a Broadway star.

Julian Marsh, Broadway’s biggest director, is putting on his latest show, Pretty Lady. Past her prime Prima Donna, Dorothy Brock, will star, thanks to the financial backing of her latest sugar daddy. “Broadway’s favourite tenor,” Billy Lawlor is playing the romantic lead. Peggy soon catches the eye of Marsh and lands a spot in the chorus line, thanks in large part to Billy, though when Brock gets injured on opening night, and with the show’s future in serious jeopardy, Peggy gets her long-dreamt-of shot at stardom.

It is quite simply a perfect production. Church’s direction magnificent. Deamer’s choreography and musical staging exquisite, filled with dazzling tap and dance routines and a staging as slick and polished as you’re likely to see. Jones’ superb, expansive designs fully immersing us in the backstage world of Broadway and the arresting sets of a big-budget Broadway spectacle.

As for the performances, all tremendous. Nicole-Lily Baisden is an absolute joy as Peggy, lighting up the stage with her smile, personality and enviable talent. As Brock, Samantha Womack demonstrates a magnetic presence and star quality, and Michael Praed brings great experience and a suave, sophistication to the role of Marsh. As the comedy double act, Faye Tozer and Les Dennis are a great pairing as Pretty Lady‘s co-writers and producers Maggie and Bert, respectively, and Sam Lips demonstrates a fine voice and charisma as Lawlor. The entire company is exceptional, making short work of the routines and workload and lifting the production with real energy and flair.

With a cast and creative team at the top of its game, 42nd Street is a timeless, irresistible, production that will be very hard to top.

Running Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes (approx.), including one 15-minute interval.

Final Performance at the Opera House, Manchester: Saturday 21 October 2023

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.


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